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The Other Face of Telecommuting

Angela Wu

Telecommuting is a big thing these days: no more commuting nightmares, more time with the kids, more time for yourself, flexible hours, and increased productivity are just some of the reasons why more and more people are looking for opportunities to work from home. But what about the disadvantages? Telecommuting can be a wonderful experience for some people. For others, it just isn't suitable. Some of the difficult things about working from home include:

-- Constant distractions: a dirty house, the TV, the eager dog that wants to be walked ... you name it. Do you have the willpower to ignore distractions and concentrate on your work?

-- 'Out of sight, out of mind': telecommuters may not be kept 'in the loop' with regards to company announcements, team issues, etc. Plus even if you consistently turn out excellent work, your co-workers and boss may not associate it with you since they don't physically see you.

-- Checking in with the office: telecommuting doesn't necessarily give you the freedom to arrange your schedule entirely at will. Many employers require telecommuters to check in with the office on a regular basis -- even physically come in to attend meetings, or simply be available to your coworkers when they need you. It's the rare employer that will allow you to work from home everyday, all day. Be prepared to compromise.

-- Obsessive work: your home becomes your office, in a way, even if you have a dedicated room just for working. You may be unable to resist the temptation to do "just one more thing" ... and before you know it, you spend much more time working than if you physically went to the office.

-- Pressure to 'prove yourself': in order to justify working from home, some telecommuters feel tremendous pressure to prove that they really are much more productive at home than their coworkers in the office. This can lead to long hours and significant stress.

-- Difficulty getting help: you're at home. Your coworkers are in the office. If you have a problem, how will you get help? It can be more difficult to explain (or receive explanations) by telephone or email, then to physically be shown how to do something.

-- Lack of social contact: many people genuinely enjoy talking to their co-workers. When you work from home, you don't have the benefit of that type of 'casual' social interaction... for example, you can't easily invite someone to "go for coffee". It's very easy to feel isolated and alone.

-- Misconceptions about home workers: some people believe that anyone who "works from home" is really just lazing around and having a vacation at the company's expense. Can you handle remarks of this nature from coworkers, or even friends and family?

Be aware, too, that not every job is suitable for telecommuting. A writer can easily work from home, for example, but a medical lab technician cannot. Telecommuting can be a productive alternative for some people. However, it's important to also look at the problems surrounding it as well. Make no mistake, telecommuting is a change in *lifestyle*! Only you can decide if it's the right one for you.

Angela used to telecommute at a large corporation, but now spends her days running her online businesses. She is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical guide to building a business on a beginner's budget. Visit her at or request a series of 10 free reports to get you started: